Day 1: Aruba to Bonaire
We’re going to be fairly detailed about leaving Aruba because we didn’t find a lot of details about leaving Aruba for other islands versus leaving for the USA. The advice that we did find indicated that for flights not to the USA you should allow up to 2 hours. Our airline (EZair) suggested at least 90 minutes. So we played it safe and asked for a taxi at 5:30 to make our 7:55 flight. We got to the airport shortly before 6:00 and the lights were still off inside the check-in building. (There are two check-in buildings in Aruba: one for flights to the USA and one for flights elsewhere.) We sat on a bench outside and ate our muffins. Employees started trickling in, as did a few passengers. The building opened up about 6:00. There was one flight scheduled before ours, a 7:30 Divi Divi Air flight. Someone showed up to start checking those passengers at around 6:15? Then at about 6:30 someone arrived to start checking in for our flight. At check in we discovered that they enforce the eight kilo maximum weight for carry-ons. Mine was too heavy so I needed to check it but there was no charge for that. Steve got to keep his. We were informed that our next step, immigration, didn’t open until so we waited in an outdoor area between the check-in building and the arrivals building. There was a cafe there serving food and coffee, and restrooms. At 7:00 they opened immigration. We then proceeded through security and then on to the gate. There were only two gates in our section. One was being used for the Dive Divi flight the other for our flight. When we walked out to the plane they checked the roller boards at the plane stairs. So the only real difference between our carry-ons was that we had to wait for mine along with our checked bag once we got to Bonaire.
We had to wait a bit for our host to pick us up at the Bonaire airport due to a traffic jam. Yes, apparently they have traffic jams on Bonaire too. We went through the check-in process at our hotel but we couldn’t get into our room until 3:00. So we rearranged stuff on a day pack and decided to go for a walk downtown. There were two cruise ships in port, both Royal Caribbean. We found a place down by one of the cruise boat docks where we could sit in the shade for a while. We read and watched crab antics. The water was remarkably clear.
Then we went further, looking for either more shade or a restaurant. (It was really hot and we forgot to grab our sunscreen.) I wasn’t expecting much from downtown Kralendijk. It’s more substantial than I thought and has some colorful and photogenic buildings. We thought the flamingos were a nice tough. In the end we stopped at It Rains Fishes for lunch. It looked comfortable and there was a nice water view.
Then we made the long and dusty walk back to our hotel by way of the supermarket. We bought rum, snacks and breakfast. We debated beer but decided we didn’t want to carry it. Then we came back to the hotel and sat by the pool until we could get into our room. Below is some of the wildlife we saw in our travels.
We drank some of our rum and decided mixing Crystal Light while doing laundry at the same time was not a good idea. (No clothes ended up pink.)
Day 2: Washington Slagbaai National Park
Our rental car company picked us up in a shuttle right on time and took everyone over to their office to pick up our truck. See what I did there? Most people rent trucks here because they’re scuba diving and need room for their tanks. We have one because it was what’s available and you can’t go in the national park without a high clearance vehicle.
We decided we might as well hit the supermarket on the way back to our place so we got some more breakfast stuff, some hummus, some more rum and some beer. Amstel this time and then we’re trying a new beer that neither of us has heard of. Then we geared up for driving around the island. We headed north for 1,000 steps on a one-way road, then angled over to Rincon and up to Washington Slagbaai National Park.
We JUST got into the park when a belt started squealing. We turned back to the entrance and parked outside so we could pop the hood. A couple of local kids came over to help out, which was very kind of them. They came right over when the truck was making noise and one of them kindly asked if it was okay if he sat in the driver’s seat to operate things while Steve and the other kid were looking under the hood. That was nice because otherwise Steve would have had to coach me on what the hell to do so he could figure out what was going on. We figured out it was the A/C belt and turning it off should work. So we drove with the windows down. We decided to take the short route rather than the long route since we were having trouble with the truck. And it probably did take us the estimated hour and 45 minutes to do the entire drive without really stopping. We did see a couple of places that look like they would be worth stopping at when we come back up this way.
It’s a lot like Arizona in the wild here except that there’s a lot more green from a distance, probably because they get more water.
We stopped at Rincon — the oldest town in the Netherlands Antilles — at Parador para Mira for lunch. I had goat stew. Tasty, and lots of bones.
Then we drove back to the hotel, stopping at the rental place along the way. Apparently the belt is a known issue and nothing to worry about. After a few seconds it stops squealing. Then we hit the pool for a bit before drinking more rum.
Day 3: The South End of the Island
Today we drove around the south end of the island. We saw the salt flats in the southwest and saw flamingos flying off a beach.
Around the southeast we saw sculptures made from driftwood and crashing waves.
We stopped at Lac Bay for a while to hang out in the shade and watch the windsurfers. We had snacky food again for dinner, this time with a shrimp spread because that’s what we bought, thinking it looked like crab spread.
Day 4: Back to Washington Slagbaai National Park
We got an earlier start today and headed back to the national park to drive the long route. We went to lunch at the same restaurant in Rincon.
Back in town we dealt with rush hour traffic to hit the grocery store for rum and breakfast. They were pretty much out of baked goods by the time we got there so we got some croissants and some cherry jam. I tried to find a back way over to the shore to scout out the beaches on our way home. That failed. So we drove back into town and took the route that we know works. By this time it was close to sunset so it was really hard to see. But we discovered Te Amo Beach has sand but not a lot of shade and the next beach south (Donkey Beach?) has shade but rocks. And then Bachelor’s Beach wasn’t a beach when we were there because it was high tide so the beach had disappeared. So tomorrow we may head for Te Amo Beach and hope we can grab some shade. If not, who knows where we’ll end up.
Day 5: By the Pool
We planned to go to the beach today but it was cloudy all morning and rained some and in the end we decided we might as well just stay here and sit by the pool. Our big excitement was Steve rescuing a lizard that got in the pool and couldn’t get back out.
Then about 3:30 we walked down to Karel’s bar and had a beer and then walked over to Pasa Bon and had pizza. We caught the sunset on our way back.
Day 6: Back to Lac Bay
Today we did what we planned to do yesterday and drove over to Lac Bay again. Where we managed to find shade. It was quite windy and kite surfers were out in force. There were a whole bunch of people who kept hanging out near us and then walking away. We don’t know if we crashed their party or not. After that we hit one grocery store that didn’t have anything we needed. So we drove back downtown to get our creamer, beer, and breakfast and then sat by the pool for a while.
We saw two iguanas come down a tree just outside our room today. One was pretty large. The other one was very green.
We had dinner at Joe’s tonight, right next door. We had a reservation for 6:00.
Day 7: By the Pool Again
It rained off and on today and my tummy was a little upset so we ended up spending the day by the pool. And we decided to keep dinner simple so we got some cheese and chorizo to go with our remaining bread and paired it with hummus and crackers. The bread had gotten just a little moldy but nothing that couldn’t be eaten around.
Day 8: At the Beach
We planned to drive over to Soroban at Lac Bay again today, but the brakes on the truck were locking up so we decided to stay closer to town and went to Donkey Beach instead. We enjoyed sitting under the trees and watching the lizards and the snorkelers and the birds. There were no cruise boats in port today which is maybe why the beach was not that crowded.
We got some beer to finish out our stay and dropped the truck off just before 5:00. We asked them to drop us off at Beer and Burgers which they had trouble finding but eventually located. They’re only open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday which seemed odd. And we caught one last sunset on Bonaire.
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I was a little surprised to find that we did not have our own outdoor sitting area. There is space to sit outside, we just need to walk down a hallway. It’s better than paying another $60 a night for a pool side room. Otherwise our room was spacious and clean and had a nice shower. Great hosts too.
Joe’s was the fanciest place we ate on this trip. We had a tasty goat cheese starter that was almost dessert-like, followed by schnitzel with mushroom sauce. We split some fries and a salad. We each had a red IPA from the Netherlands. Plus they brought us bread, an amuse bouche, and with our check we got a shot of homemade liqueur made with pepper, fruit and caramel. At Beer and Burgers we each had a first date burger which came with Brie, mushrooms, and garlic sauce and an excellent local hazy IPA. We enjoyed Parador para Mira so much we went twice. Our fish and chips at It Rains Fishes and pizza at Pasabon were also good.
We rented a vehicle for flexibility and because there wasn’t much of a bus system.